Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Promises of Salvation From Our God

Psalm 91:9-16
Ps 91:9    If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Ps 91:14    “Because they love me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue them;
I will protect them, for they acknowledge my name.
15 They will call on me, and I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will deliver them and honor them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them
and show them my salvation.”

When beginning to open this selection from Psalm 91 and delving deep into it, we need to to recognize that it is a psalm of personal testimony.  This means that since God is an unchanging God and since the context of this passage could relate to believers in every age depending on their personal circumstances, the promises of this passage could be seen as being for believers everywhere.  So, we turn to the initial verses.  This passage opens, with verses that have often been misinterpreted and misunderstood.  Vv. 9-10 are not intended to be taken as a promise that nothing bad will every happen to us in life if we simply take the LORD, Yahweh, as our refuge and strength.  If we do this, we will be very disappointed in life.  Instead, these verses are intended to show us that God will protect us in the midst of the judgment and calamity that is happening around us.  But he will not always protects us from "going through the fire," so-to-speak.  But he will keep us from getting severely singed.  This idea is backed up by the next two verses (vv. 11-12), which are the only mention of guardian angels in the whole Bible.  Since, it is the only one, this is where many have gotten the idea of God giving us guardian angels.  I don't have much to say on this, except God can choose to protect his chosen people however he desires of course, and he could use angels.  But it probably is not responsible to make a doctrine of guardian angels and to popularize it as we have done in Christian culture based upon only two verses.  If guardian angels were so important, than I imagine that God would have mentioned them again at least once in his 66 books of the Bible.
But in the following verses (vv. 14-16), God gives 8 promises: 1) rescue - God's mediating action on our behalf of the believer), 2) security - protection by keeping out of reach of danger, 3) answered prayer - God's response to our petition, 4) fellowship in the middle of our distress, 5) deliverance - God's work to keep us from the threat of peril, 6) reward and authentication - God's work in honoring us making us recognized, 7) personal fulfillment - God's work to bring us satisfaction and contentment, and finally, 8) the enjoyment of salvation.
When we look that these 8 promises more closely we find that they have a natural progression.  It should be noted here that I have reordered these promises and they are simply bundled together in the last three verses of the chapter.  But if they are ordered this way, we can see that there is a progression from an opening act of rescue and help to a final enjoyment and satisfaction in that salvation.  And in between God's promises to take care of the needs that do occur.
However, it should be noted that there are 3 conditions for these promises to be fulfilled: 1) the person must love God (v. 14) - this means that we have a yearning to cling to our God and remain true to him, 2) the person must know God's name (v. 14) - to know God's name in the Bible displays a closeness between that person and God because the name reveals God's character, and 3) the person must pray (v. 15) - we have to call upon God to receive his blessings at times, and this is part of God's blessing and promise that he will hear us.
So, as we have looked at the final eight verses of Psalm 91, we see that God has many great promises in store for us, but that are conditional to some extent.  Therefore, we should strive to love God, to understand God's character, and to pray to him often.  These three things build a relationship, which is the most important of all, and one that is eternal.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Encouragement of a Friend

            Sometimes in life God throws us into difficult and challenging situations long before we would have ventured to step out on our own.  Such is case for my wife and myself right now at First Baptist.  We moved here almost 9 months ago, and now we find ourselves in positions we never thought possible.  Honestly, this time last year we have circumstances that we thought were about as stretching as we could handle.  Last May, I was a recent graduate of Wheaton Graduate School, and my wife was just completing her degree at Moody Bible Institute.  I was working part time, and flooding the postal system with resumes, making contacts, and basically just networking to find a job.  You see, we were engaged to be married in just three short months, and I had yet to find a job.  But we believed that we were in the center of God's will and had been seeking Him throughout our relationship together.  He had led us to this point, so we really had no reason to doubt that He knew what He was doing.  He has been guiding and looking out for us each step of the way.  It's always a comfort to know that someone has your best interest at heart.  That after-all is the main point of God's Law-filled instruction in the Old Testament.  Jesus summed it up well that the whole of the Old Testament stood upon two commandments: 1) Love God with all that you are, and 2) Love your neighbor just as you love yourself.  Even though we trust the Lord to take care of us as we move along life's path and have complete confidence in Him, it still is a fact of life that often the Lord uses people as instruments in helping us along the way.  I appreciate all the friends and members of the church who have compassionately and purposefully extended grace to both Kristine in our few short months here.  We truly feel blessed that so many are looking out for our best interest as we do the same for theirs.  We all are in need of help in living the Christian life faithfully, and we all need encouragement along the way.  I could be sit here all afternoon and list people that have been incredibly helpful to us, as we have transitioned into marriage, a new home, a new town, a new job, and now even more responsibilities in service to our King.  With the topic of encouragement in mind, I would like to take the opportunity to share a little about what the Bible has to contribute on the topic of encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It comes from a little book that we probably don't spend too much time on given its small size.  The book of 3 John gives us insight into the relationship between the apostle John and his friend Gaius.  John sets out to encourage his brother in Christ, and I believe he sets a great example for us today.  We find this insight primarily in vs. 1-6. 
            First, John begins in vs. 1 by calling Gaius, his "friend."  John repeats it 4 times in this, the 2nd shortest book in the English Bible.  To say something 4 times throughout the letter, and to begin the letter by referring to Gaius as someone he "love(s) in the truth," shows the level of Christian fellowship that these two had.  Whether or not we have someone in our life that we care for this much is not so important; rather, John sets the example of encouragement by affirming the Christian love that the Holy Spirit has caused to blossom in John for his brother in Christ.  We too should affirm this love that we have for each other by demonstrating it.  This can take shape in words of encouragement, acts of service, giving of a gift, spending quality time, or other simple actions that show the bond that we have in the Spirit.  It doesn't take a grand gesture - just something simple.
            Second, in vs. 2 we see that John prayed for his brother.  And to go even further, John prayed for both the physical well being of Gaius - for health and safety - and for the well being of Gaius' soul.  John is praying for physical blessing for Gaius during a turbulent time in church history.  Christians were undergoing persecution for their faith, and John wants Gaius to be healthy and safe from harm.  But John does not stop there.  He further desires God to bless the bond that Gaius has to Christ in the Spirit.  We can do so much to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ by taking the time to get on our knees for their benefit petitioning God to give them physical and spiritual health in their life with Christ.  And one of the best parts of praying for someone is getting to express to them that they have been held up in prayer.  What great encouragement!
            Third, in vs. 3-4 John expresses his joy at the obedience that he has witnessed in Gaius and the reports of faithful obedience to Christ that others have expressed about Gaius.  Joy is one of those great characteristics of the Christian that is contagious.  My wife is one of those people, and I know of many others, in which it is evident that the Spirit causes their joy to bubble over and spread to others around them.  But we all can be people like that if we are asking the Spirit to fill us each day and to let us share that joy.  One of the best ways to share it is to simply share the joy that we have about life with God, and then just watch what happens.  It may be instant, or it may take time, but most likely joy will spring that person's life eventually if they are walking with the Spirit. 
            Fourth and finally, in vs. 5-6 John seeks to encourage Gaius by letting him know that John is aware of the efforts, service, and ministry that he has seen Gaius perform so well for others.  There are many believers in our lives who are faithfully serving the Lord, through the power of the Spirit, and they need to be commended for their service to Christ and to others.  And all we have to do is give them a heart-felt message that we see it and it that it makes a difference for Christ's kingdom.  Let's not forget that ministry to others can be taxing and tiresome at times, and we all need a helpful commendation to keep us focused on Christ and the reason why we serve.  John does just that for his friend, and with it we see a great example of how we can encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In 3 John, the apostle gives us four helpful ways that we can follow his example to encourage someone in Christ today.  And in a way, all four ways are part of the simple command that Paul gives in 1 Thess. 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up....” Why not pick one of these examples and try it on someone you care for today.  These are all efforts we can make to encourage our neighbors, and to fulfill the what Jesus says in Matt. 22:39, "Love your neighbor." and through it encourage them while also pleasing our Lord in the process.  God bless you all and thank you so much for the encouragement that we have received along the way!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide? Sorry Jiminy, I Don't Think So!

Hebrews 9:11-14

Today we look at a significant passage out of the book of Hebrews.  It comes from Hebrews 9, and I specifically want to look at vv. 11-14.  Now you may now, that we do not know who the the author of Hebrews is, but even though we don't know that, we are sure that this is a crucial message from God to his people on who Jesus Christ is.

To set the stage for these verses, we have had the author of Hebrews presenting a sermon on how Christ is superior or better than anything.  The author shows that Jesus Christ is greater than supernatural beings like angels, he is great than all the prophets including the greatest - Moses, Jesus' role as priest for all humanity is greater than any order of priests in the past.  Basically, the author of Hebrews has succeeded in showing how Jesus Christ is the ultimate Messiah, the ultimate Prophet, and the ultimate High Priest.  Then the author goes on to show how Jesus works under a better covenant, a better temple in heaven, and how he was a better sacrifice.  It is in this section, that we find chapter 9 and the verses for today.  Jesus has provided an incredible accomplishment by his sacrifice.  Let's look now as vv. 11-14...

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
(Hebrews 9:11-14 TNIV)

Chapter 9 has several great accomplishments that Christ has done for us, but this morning we are looking as the first.  Christ cleanses our conscience.  How does he do this?  Jesus provides for us moral cleansing.  Well, the first thing you should be asking is, what does he mean by "moral cleansing" and second, what difference does it make?  We will see shortly.  First, we need to see what the conscience is.

Do you remember the old Disney animated movie, "Pinocchio"?  In this 1940's Disney classic, Pinocchio, a wooden puppet desires to become a real boy.  After Pinocchio's maker, Geppetto, makes a wish upon a falling star, the wooden puppet is visited by a Blue Fairy.  She tells Pinocchio that he can become a real boy of flesh and blood if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish and is able to tell right from wrong by listening to his conscience.  Pinocchio doesn't understand what a conscience is, but then has it explained to him by another character, that had entered the puppeteer's workshop to get warm.  This character as you might remember is Jiminy Cricket, which is basically a small green, talking cricket.  Jiminy is asked by the Blue Fairy to serve as Pinocchio's conscience throughout the movie.

But Jiminy Cricket is famous for singing a few songs in the movie, one of which is "Give A Little Whistle."   And one of the famous lines from that song is "Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide."  So, was Jiminy right?  Can we let our conscience by our guide?  Well, the answer depends.  Our conscience is our God-given ability for self-moral evaluation.  Basically, our conscience is the ability God gave us to tell what is right and wrong and to see if we are living a righteous life or one that displeases God.  Put another way, our conscience is our ability to know something about myself that God knows.

Now we come to the answer to our previous question, "What it mean for Jesus to cleanse our conscience?" or put another way, "What does it mean for Jesus to give us moral cleansing?"  Well, in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, he provided us with two things: 1) negatively, he relieved the conscience from its sense of sin, guilt, and alienation from God, and 2) positively, he gave the conscience a sense of forgiveness and peace.  So, Jesus took away sin and guilt from our conscience and gave it forgiveness and peace.  When did or does this happen?  Well, it happened for each one of us at our conversion, when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But it also happens many times after our conversion as we put forth the effort on a regular basis to keep our conscience clear.  What I'm talking about is confession of sins.  1 John 1:9 reads, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (TNIV).  We need to be putting in effort on a regular basis to keep our conscience clear by confessing our sins to God and receiving that sense forgiveness and peace that Christ offers again and again.  Why is this so important?  Because one precondition for serving God is a clear conscience.  We can't truly serve God as he desires us to without having a clear conscience before him.  Having it clear will let us see clearly what is the right thing to do to please our Father in heaven.

So, to answer the question - Can we let our conscience be our guide?  Only if we have a clear conscience that has a sense of peace because there is no unconfessed sin in our life that we feel know is coming between us and God in our relationship with him.  Only a clear conscience can produce pleasing service to God.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What the Word of God Does for Us

Psalm 19:7-14

Ps 19:7     The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure,
and all of them are righteous.

Ps 19:10     They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

Ps 19:14     May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
(from Today's New International Version)

As we look at this passage, one of the first things that should strike us is the description of God's Word.  We should all be familiar, as we read through the Scriptures, of this way of describing God's Word.  In these verses in particular the Word of God is said to be: 1) perfect, 2) trustworthy, 3) right, 4) radiant, 5) pure, 6) sure, 7) righteous, 8) more precious than gold, 9) and sweeter than honey.

Now, we could focus on what the Word of God is in these descriptions and talk quite a bit about what they mean.  Clearly, the Word of God stands alone as the most precious book ever.  But in this passage I want to focus on the descriptions of what the Word of God does for us.  What results does it have or what does it produce when it is applied to a life.  We will focus on four things.

First, it is something that refreshes the soul (v. 7).  This could be refreshment that someone needs from intense distress or tragedy or it could be refreshment to someone who is simply tired or worn out.  But God's Word refreshes our desires and emotions to make the life within us, our soul, be revived to take on each day and serve the LORD.

Second, the Word of God makes wise the simple (v. 7).  The idea here is that the Word of God makes us teachable.  This I believe is one of the most admirable qualities a person can have because I believe it demonstrates a degree of heavenly wisdom on their part because we all have things we need to learn.  We need to be teachable people, people that God can mold as he desires.  The need to be teachable no matter what stage we have reached in life is illustrated very well in a short story written by Frank Koch in the magazine Proceedings, produced by the Naval Institute:

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days.             I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell.  The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."

"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.

Lookout replied, "Steady captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."

Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."

The captain said, "Send I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."

"I'm a seaman second class, " came the reply.  "You had better change course 20 degrees."

By that time, the captain was furious.  He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship.  Change course 20 degrees."

Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."

We changed course.

Here we can easily see the need for us to keep the attitude of being teachable no matter what stage we are in life, and it is the Word of God that is the tool that makes teachable if we are in it on a regular basis.

Third, the Word of God gives joy to our hearts (v. 8).  This means that God's Word educates our emotions and our minds to help us feel as we should about our circumstances - no matter how dismal that may seem, we have joy in the midst of them and we examine life in light of that joy

Fourth, the Word of God gives light to the eyes (v. 8).  This means that God's Word gives the reader the opportunity to see the world around them the way God sees it to some extent.  We get God's perspective on things, which is always the most important perspective.  We recognize needs as well as the beauty of his creation, which includes each human being with the dignity he created them with.  It also allows us to see God's boundaries for life.  We understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable to God.  We understand what God values, and what we in turn should value.  In a similar way, Paul speaks of this in Romans 12:1-2, when he speaks of the Christian's need to "renew" their minds.  The Word of God is what will "renew" our minds to have the illumination to see life the way God wants us to see it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Steps for Getting All of God's Blessings

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”     (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 TNIV)

In the preceding section (Deut. 5) before this wonderful passage, Moses has just recounted the 10 Words (often called the 10 commandments or the Decalogue).  Moses has given God's law to a new generation to instruct them in how to please the Lord God.  Now we turn to Moses explanation of the greatest instruction in God's law.

vv. 1-3.  These verses in chap. 6 are a continuation of that instruction, which came in chap. 5.  The opening, vv. 1-3, describe motivational factors to obeying God's instruction.  There are two repeated words again and again throughout these verses - "so that"- it comes up 5 times.  Now, we shouldn't think of the commands given to the Israelites as ways for them to earn salvation.  Instead we should think of them as grace.  The "so that" passages are motivational in the sense that they are there to motivate the people of God to be obedient.  But the idea is not that they earn the blessing.  Remember, they were already the covenant people of God.  God made a covenant with them in the book of Exodus.  God has already bound himself to covenant faithfulness to his people and I believe that they were his children.  They are already promised blessing, not they are commanded to obey the LORD in order to enjoy that blessing to its fullest and to receive even more blessings.

This is the biblical pattern in both Old Testament and New Testament for the people of God.  If we obey the Lord, we receive rich and abundant blessings and rewards.  If we don't, then we miss out on what God has in store for us to some extent.  But no matter what we are his children and we remain in his family.

vv. 4-5.  This section starts out with the famous 'Shema' in v. 4.  It emphasizes God's oneness, his completeness, and that he is the only God worthy of being God and receiving worship.  This is the God who has made a covenant with you and the next verse (v. 5) calls those who are part of the covenant, those who have been redeemed, to be loyal to God and to the covenant - "Love the LORD your God."  The LORD, or in Hebrew YHWH, alone is worthy of covenant love.

But how are we to love God?  Well, v. 5 tells us to do it with all our "heart."  In Hebrew, the heart was considered to be similar to the mind - in fact, this verse could easily be translated "with all our mind."  We need to be careful to not think of heart with all the connotations that we bring to it in English.  In the Old Testament, the heart is not the center of the emotions, rather it is the center of a person's will, intentions, and intellect.  So, we are to love God with all our mind, our will, with full intention to adore him.

We are also to love God with all our soul.  The soul again, is thought of differently in Hebrew than in English, with all its connotations.  We should take this word to mean, our "life."  But it means more than that.  It also means our emotions and our desires - basically anything that makes us unique as humans.  So, putting the last two terms together, we are to love God with our whole self - our mental intellect, our desires, our  moral choices, our will - basically the deepest roots of our self.

Finally, we are to love God with all our "strength." We should understand this as instructing us to love God with everything we possibly have - everything we have left after our heart and our soul - all our substance, our possessions - everything!

vv. 6-9.  Verse 6 tells us to have the commandments of God upon our hearts, which emphasizes the idea that runs throughout the whole book of Deuteronomy that obedience is not something that you just perform, but it must be inward, it must be obedience of the heart, as we have already seen in part in the previous verses.

Verse 7 tells us that the commandments of God need to be passed on the next generation, just like a runner passes on a baton in the middle of a race.  We need to pass the baton of God's Word on those young and old who have not heard it.  But this verse is speaking of the older passing it on to the younger.  But how is this done, well I believe the deeper meaning of this passage leads us to say that passing on God's commandments is not done by simply enforcing them in our homes as we would enforce a code of law.  But rather, the idea is inward, it is done by making God's instructions the fabric of our life and conversation.  It's like we can't help but talk about God when we are home and when we are with other people.  It exudes from us - it's like it oozes from the inside out in powerfully impressive way.

Finally, vv. 8-9 speak of having the instruction of God always before us.  These verses were taken literally by Judaism and the Pharisees of Jesus' day wore things called "phylacteries," which were small leather boxes that contained the Hebrew Bible in them and were worn on the forehead like a visor.  But we don't have to resort to wearing leather boxes to take these verses literally, which I believe is the proper way to interpret them.  We simply need to keep the Word of God on our minds - this means we need to be getting in the Bible each day and we need to be trying to apply it throughout the day.

These verses in Deut. 6 are about covenant family loyalty.  Remember, that Jeremiah 31 is about the New Covenant, the same covenant that Jesus' ministry is based upon.  We are people with covenant between us and God.  God has been and will be faithful, now we must be faithful to that covenant in obedience - not for salvation, because God has taken care of that, but for us to be the people we were meant to be in relationship with God - for us to reach our potential in relationship with him and getting all of God's blessings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disciplines for Godliness

1. What is spiritual discipline and why is it important?

It's training myself to be a godly servant of Jesus. It is not legalism or a work performed solely in my own power, bit it is getting rid of what holds me back (Heb. 12:1) and training myself to be a godly servant of our Lord (1 Tim. 4:7-8).

It is important because I will never become what I was meant to be if I do not put in the discipline to become the person God desires of me.  When He created me, He desired for me to be a godly person.  He wanted to have a vibrant relationship with me, and without this relationship and without me striving to be that person I was meant to be I will never be truly satisfied in life. I will never achieve the level of satisfaction that God intended me for, and I will not be fulfilled.  Because a truly fulfilling life is one that pleases Him for made me for relationship with Him and for good works.

2. What usually gets in the way of spiritual discipline?

Sin, in a nutshell, gets in the way of spiritual discipline.  We all have a natural bent toward sinning and this is what keep us distant from God and from seeking Him.

3. What can a lack of spiritual discipline do to your life?

It would cause and does cause me to not grow in my faith as I should, and it may even cause me to decline in my faith.  Which in turn means that those who look up to me do not grow as they should and could decline.  Also, God is grieved, saddened, and very disappointed because I am lazy and do not care about the life He has made and intended for me.

4. Reflect upon 1 Tim. 4:7-8.  What is the literal meaning of "train" here?

"Train" in this context means to put off anything that would hinder myself.  Then I am to put forth extreme effort to achieve a goal.  To put in some "spiritual sweat" is the basic idea.

5. Practically, step by step, what does this mean I should do?

Anything in my life that distracts or makes me lose my determination for godliness, should be gotten rid of or avoided if at all possible.  I should put the majority of my effort each day into this training and not into some other less fruitful endeavor.

6. What does Heb. 12:1 say about this?  What things are holding me back in my walk with God?  Why am I hanging on to them?

Some of my choices in entertainment are the things which may be holding me back.  The types of movies that I watch, the TV shows, the choice of music, and even books are all things that have held be back at some point from pursuing godliness.  The content has not been glorifying to God and has lead me to other pursuits that, while are not sinful in themselves, they do take up far too much of my time  and keep me from being devoted to God in all areas of my life.  Is the music that you listen to up-lifting?  Or does it convey a message that makes you drift further away from the God who loves you?  Do the books that you read have dominant themes that cater to self-gratification, which tends to focus our thoughts on ourself instead of others or our God? Do the movies that your watch glorify violence or destruction of human beings?  This is surely not something that glorifies God.  Do the TV shows that you watch have sexual themes that are substitutes for God's grand and wonderful design for sex?  These are all things that we need to be aware could be holding us back from being spiritually disciplined and glorifying to God.  Each thing that we choose to entertain ourselves has to be evaluated by what type of effect it will have on us.  Does it interfere with our pursuit of godliness?  Often the main reason why we hold on to these things is because we are selfish.  We want to have entertainment that is exhilarating, entertainment that moves us and touch all the areas that makes us human.  We need to put off our selfish desires.  We can still have entertainment that moves us and touches our facets of humanity, but we still need to be discriminating in which ones we choose.  It comes down to our level of maturity.  By this, I do not mean that we can see, read, or listen to anything we want if we are mature enough.  But rather, if we are mature, we will choose wisely what we see, read, and listen to.

7. Is there a cost to spiritual discipline?  Check out 1 Cor. 9:25-27.  What could greater discipline cost you?  Are you prepared to pay the price?  Why or why not?

The main cost is giving up time and comforts.  This is my greatest cost.  It might be different for someone else.  And each person has to take account of what they need to give up.  But for me, time and comforts are what I see myself giving up.  Still, what I gain far outweighs the cost.  Paul says in this passage in 1 Corinthians that I will gains a crown that will last for eternity.  Greater energy will cost more time, energy, and comfort.  But the pay off in the end is far, far greater than the cost.  I am prepared to pay the price! Are you?!  The reward is a life that is fulfilling in every way because God designed you and made you for this, and you get to enjoy this life for all eternity with Him.  It's hard to describe this life any more than this because the true joy is in experiencing it!

8.  Here is a great quote for you: "No manliness, no maturity!  No discipline, no discipleship!  No sweat, no sainthood!"

9.  How is spiritual discipline different from legalism?

Legalism is self-focused (although those involved in legalism have often blinded themselves to their selfish motives) because the aim of it is to see what I can do to gain merit with God.  Spiritual discipline has a very different focus.  It is motivated by a love for God and a desire to please Him.  Often the key to keeping a distance between these two is to have someone to keep us accountable and evaluate our lives to see our true motives.

10.  Here is a question for you; one that only you can answer.  Is a change needed to pursue godliness?  If so, what can you do?

(these questions come from the first chapter of the book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, by R. Kent Hughes, 2001)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"you complete me"

Well, I realize that I haven't update this blog in quite a while. Married life is so great and so is living in Storm Lake, IA. Who would have thought I would be saying that after spending 2 months in the middle of nowhere. This last weekend, I spent it by myself because I sent Kristine to Chicago to surprise Ilene on her birthday. But during that weekend, I realized something. It has to do with something I was working on for a devotional for church. I was working on Gen. 2:18, which is where God says that he will provide a "helper suitable" for Adam. Eventually, we find out that this suitable helper is Eve. But I looked into what that phrase means. It may be something that people treat as a cliche´in our culture. But the idea behind that phrase is a "counterpart," a "partner", or putting it together - a "counter-partner." It has the idea of completion, of being the other side to the coin, that completes it. I realized what Kristine truly is to me when she was gone for a few days. Sometimes you don't realize what you have until it's gone, and this was the case for me this last weekend. I love her with all I am, and she is the most wonderful thing that has happened to me, this side of heaven. Even though it might be cheesy line from the movie, Jerry Maguire, but it's true. She completes me, and this truth is as old as Genesis.